I grew up thinking all men were angry.
Angry outbursts and fits of rage were a normal part of childhood and my subsequent relationships in adulthood.
The prevalence of outbursts kept me in a constant state of fear for most of my life. I walked on eggshells waiting for tempers to flare at any given moment.
I love my dad, and as a girl I couldn’t wait for him to get home from work. I would follow him into his woodworking shop where he crafted our home furniture to perfection. When he rebuilt the engine in his little Mitsubishi truck, I would sit on the floor of the garage, watching him under the engine working on parts I couldn’t comprehend.
I wanted to be just like him, and do what he did. I watched with keen eyes and a loving heart.
But in my watching, moments of frustration would flare up in him. Moments when the project wasn’t going as planned or perhaps he hit his thumb with a hammer, or a bolt wasn’t loosening like it should.
His anger would roar out of his belly and fill the atmosphere. Sometimes he would yell. Sometimes he would curse. Sometimes he would throw things.
The atmosphere would shift in an instant, from love to fear.
I would go from wanting to be close to my father to a state of fight or flight, wondering if I was safe. Wondering if I had done something wrong.
Would he turn that anger toward me?
As a child, I watched these angry outbursts feeling like the situation was out of control and free-falling into chaos.
I felt insecure from moment to moment, afraid that anything I said or did would trigger rage. I cherished moments of peace when he told dad jokes and played with us or slipped us candy when my mother wasn’t looking.
I joined the military, and I saw the same kind of anger in the men I worked with. I got married, and I experienced the same kind of anger from my husband. It’s seemed that almost every man in my life was angry. Without evidence to the contrary, I thought anger and rage was a normal personality trait of men.
In my second marriage, the rage was almost always directed at me. My ex-husband would become angry at everything I said or did. He would punch holes in walls, break furniture, throw things, insult me, degrade me, abuse me. There would be times of respite where I would try to convince myself that things would get better. I held out hope that maybe one day he would change.
I never felt safe. I never felt secure.
Sometimes I would try to flee the anger, but he always followed me.
I had no escape from the anger and fear. It was ever present. My life conditioned me to be afraid. Moments of fear in my childhood were compounded by rape and abuse at the hands of angry men.
By the time I was thirty years old, I’d experienced so much trauma and abuse that the darkness surrounded me like a thick, impenetrable blanket. Fear was my existence. I had no hope that life could be different. I’d done everything I could think of to change my life. Inappropriate relationships with inappropriate men, alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, medication, therapy, binge eating, exercise.
My greatest moments of peace came when I was training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. My life had been a fight for survival. My life had been oppression and suppression by angry men. And yet on the mats, I could fight back. On the mats, I could even get the upper hand. It was the only place I could escape my victim mindset. But the moment I stepped off the mats, the darkness consumed me anew. All the fear, depression, anxiety, and despair clawed at my back threatening to pull me down into a pit of hell. Life was a constant battle to live.
I tried to rescue myself, time and time again, never able to escape the cycle of darkness. Alone in my apartment, I would cry out in despair, “Someone, help me.”
Yet, all I heard was silence.
Not long after, I met Dr. Joshua F. Todd. He shared the Gospel with me and Jesus came crashing into my life in an undeniable way.
Shortly after I was baptized, Dr. Joshua sent me a song that still makes me weep:
I didn’t know it then, but I know now that God was always chasing after me. God sent Dr. Joshua into my life to pull me out of the darkness and into the light. God heard my SOS, and He sent an army to rescue me. God knew what I would go through when He knit me together in my mother’s womb, and He already had a plan for my restoration.
I’d been afraid of men my entire life, and God sent Dr. Joshua to be my spiritual father. He would be a place of safety and trust as God healed and restored me to become the woman He created me to be. I’m still in the process of becoming God’s Nicole, but already in the last year I’ve been transformed in ways I never thought possible.
When I first started meeting with Dr. Joshua at Urban Bean, a local Orange Park coffee shop, he told me that “God could heal and restore me as if the trauma never happened.”
The sentence seemed to defy all logic, but I was so desperate that my hope turned into faith. In the last year, God has proven Himself faithful in His promise of restoration. My very first meeting with Dr. Joshua brought more healing and peace than five years of therapy ever had.
Since that time, I’ve been welcomed into a tribe of authentic and mature Christians at FreedomHouse Jacksonville who have given me love and mercy and peace. I found a safe place where God could break me apart and begin to put me back together.
In the last year as I’ve walked through the process of discipleship, I’ve been able to get off of anxiety medication. I’ve been able to forgive the men who hurt me. I’ve been able to forgive myself. And I’ve found joy like I’ve never experienced. It’s nothing short of miraculous, and I know the best is yet to come.